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Jo Stapley: Once again, the magic of KSP has taken hold of me

The elusive writer’s “magic” darted in and out during my time at KSP.

Up on this hill, you can hear everything nearby—trucks, planes, animals. It was hard not to begin thinking about the lives of everyone around the cabin. As trucks grumbled up the hill in a never-ending procession, I wondered if any of the drivers were perhaps embroiled in a fresh romance? A plane soared loudly overhead, and I wondered how many unrequited lovers sat on board, having been rejected by suitors after whirlwind trips? As duelling magpies fought and squawked outside the cabin window, I wondered if they perhaps had a love story to rival Romeo and Juliet? As I type this, I’m questioning my sudden fascination with all things romance! Love just keeps filtering its way into my new novel… With boundless room to breathe, and think, and create, the most unexpected ideas seep out.

I spent each day at KSP with chocolate as my only writing companion. When the words ran out, I’d go for a very long walk down the hill into town, and the words would reappear. One night the other KSP Fellow staying here, Carol Millner and I ventured to the local pub to soak up the vibe after a hard day’s plotting and planning. We began the night talking about poetry, and ended the evening by spotting a possum rustling in the bushes high above.

After six nights alone in a cabin, I’m walking away with my new novel underway. Different characters have taken the reins from me and are all clamouring to have their turn to talk. Once again, the magic of KSP has taken hold of me, and I have conquered the dreaded blank page. Thank you again Katharine for allowing me the space to write until the wee hours, night after night. Until next time…

Top ten tips for the KSP stay:

1) When you’re stuck for inspiration, listen for nearby sounds and ask yourself who is making them and why? Then write.

2) If you’ve changed writing genres, watching craft videos is a great way to jog ideas.

3) The KSP writing groups are a great way to exchange ideas and hear extracts from genres you’d normally not read. Throw off your nerves and attend as many writing groups as you can while you’re staying here.

4) If you’re stuck, take a walk with your phone and record yourself talking through plot problems.

5) Catching the bus down the hill is a fun way to dream up new characters!

6) Writing a scene two different ways is “allowed” if you can’t decide. Remember that everything is “allowed” in writing!

7) When you hear a rustle in the bushes, whether day or night, it’s probably just the quendas. (Fun fact: the quenda is a type of bandicoot.)

8) Ask yourself “why” five times over, to get to the heart of a plot or character issue.

9) Bring more books than you think you’ll read. Without technology or distractions, it’s surprising how quickly you can race through books here.

10) When discomfort arises—anxiety, nerves, boredom—try to “lean in.” So many great writers say that authenticity is the birthplace of the best writing. So, harness your discomfort and sit down to write.

Jo Stapley, 1st Edition Fellow - January 2023


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